Current exhibitions

Kurt Klagsbrunn, a humanist photographer in Rio (1940-1960)

Kurt Klagsbrunn was born in Vienna, Austria, on May 6th, 1918. With the rise of Nazism in 1938, he was forced to abandon med school. On July 26th, Kurt left Vienna for Lisbon, through Rotterdam, with his parents and brother. He arrived in Brazil in April of 1939.

What was it that captured the attention of this young Viennese medical student, who arrived in Rio in 1939? When he left Austria as a Jewish ref-ugee fleeing the Nazi regime, he was not allowed to bring along his pho-tographic camera. At the end of the long journey, however, Kurt arrives in Brazil with a Leica. He is fascinated by the local landscape and light, and that camera will be his passport to a new life. Quiet and observant, the young man started taking photographs.

What did Kurt photograph in his 40 years as a professional photographer?

With a curious, sometimes ironic eye, Kurt documented parties and social and political events for magazines such as Rio Magazine, Sombra, Brazil Herald, Rio, Fon-Fon, Vida, Revista do Comércio and Carroussel, which allowed him to build a great clientele. He became known among artists and intellectuals, and his work was acknowledged by his peers. Soon, he was able to make a living and was frequently asked to work for American Life magazine on stories about Brazil.

His camera went beyond the task at hand, often in a tangent, focusing on surroundings rather than on the actual subjects that he was commissioned to photograph. Curious, it captured the dynamics of the streets and passersby, the barefoot kids, the poorly dressed, unprotected construction workers in factories and construction sites. He saw humans and machines interacting and perceived that as the challenge of his times. From this perspective, between fascination and thirst for knowledge, his inspiration to create photographic essays was born.

Those portrayed in his photos were afforded a dignity characteristic of his eye. Their relaxed posture in the streets of Cinelândia and at the beach, and the exuberance and energy of local festivities are seen as urban choreographies. This perspective, because of its humanistic nature, freed Kurt from the constraints of an European education and allowed him to perceive the body, the gestures in all its vitality and simplicity, without trying to make them more aesthetically pleasing, accepting a certain “grittiness” in their surroundings. It was a simple way of looking: whatever is there belongs there.

He routinely wrote down the names of the workmen he photographed, as well as names of the anonymous couples engaged to be married, revealing his attitude towards his subjects. This relationship is evident in the visceral strength emanating from the photos and manages to convey the unique expression of the being. 

In the first decade after Kurt’s arrival, Brazil was in a state of turmoil. Under the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas, the country entered WWII, after a period of hesitation regarding which side it would choose to join. Kurt got close to the National Student Union (UNE), and to young men like him. He photographed their struggle for the alliance of the country in the fight against the Nazis, for amnesty and social movements. He celebrated their victory, documented the banning of the Communist Party and the election of marechal Dutra for president. During the second Vargas administration, in 1950, he documented the creation of a new industrial complex and the election of Juscelino Kubitscheck. He photographed Brasília. At the same time he continued to photograph weddings, fashion shows and the luminaries who made up the local social scene – painters, writers, musicians, actors, people on the beach and during Carnival in a city that was growing and changing.

Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn

Curators

This is a project of the Museu de Arte do Rio – MAR team with the collaboration of:

Coordinator

Victor Hugo Klagsbrunn 

Curatorship

Marta Klagsbrunn | Márcia Mello | Paulo Herkenhoff | Susane Worcman

Research

Raquel Nunes

Exhibition Design

Marcelo Larrea - marcelo larrea studio | Assistente: Moshe Motta | Desenho executivo:  Mariana Parissoto Catena

Graphic Design

Mônica Machado

Carpentry

Camuflagem

Automation

Info Pantoja

Museology

Camila Cardoso
Raquel Villagran

Set Up Team

OKAN

Lighting

Artimanha – Julio Katona

Frame

Metara  Arte e Molduras

Printing

Estúdio Lupa

Acknowledgements:

Cesar Barreto | Judith Munk (in memoriam) | Klaus Honnef | Mauricio Lissovsky | Pedro Vasques

 

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Jardim de Alah. Rio de Janeiro, 1945. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Man working in construction. Rio de Janeiro, 1946. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Pause for coffee. Minas Gerais, 1947. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Washerwomen in Ricardo de Albuquerque. Rio de Janeiro, 1949. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Washerwomen in Ricardo de Albuquerque. Rio de Janeiro, 1949. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Hat fashion at the Jockey Club, Rio de Janeiro, 1948. Washerwomen in Ricardo de Albuquerque. Rio de Janeiro, 1949. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Billboard in front of D. Vital square, facing the Igreja da Penha church. Recife, 1949. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Elegance at the Jockey Club. Rio de Janeiro, 1950. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Photo: Thales Leite

  • Photo: Thales Leite

  • Photo: Thales Leite

  • Photo: Thales Leite

  • Photo: Thales Leite

  • Photo: Thales Leite

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. Shoeshiner in Cinelândia, with the Palácio Monroe at the backgound. Rio de Janeiro, 1943. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.

  • Kurt Klagsbrunn. View from Corcovado. Rio de Janeiro, 1948. Marta and Victor Klagsbrunn Fund - MAR collection.